Tag Archives: ab1665

Nearly all broadband subsidy proposals could survive California’s chopping block. Nearly

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

There won’t be enough money in the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to pay for all the broadband projects proposed for subsidies last month. Grant requests total $533 million, but there’s only $145 million in tax revenue projected to be available for CASF infrastructure projects, as the program is designed and run now.

Something has to give. But not everything. One potential remedy is to top up project budgets with federal money. Two other possibilities are to reduce the share of those budgets paid for by CASF and/or eliminating some proposals completely.

Limited changes to CASF rules landed in the hopper at the California capitol on Monday. Two state budget clean up bills – “trailer bills” – with identical language were introduced: assembly bill 82 and senate bill 108. The tweaks allow CASF grants to be combined with subsidies from the federal Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), even when a project area has existing broadband service that exceeds California’s achingly slow 6 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload standard. A project area is eligible for RDOF money if it lacks service at 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up.

Maybe the feds will ride to the rescue, but that’s a question for later. RDOF broadband subsidies are awarded via a complex reverse auction that is scheduled for October. For now, Californians have to rely on what’s left in CASF for broadband infrastructure upgrades. That means pruning back the $533 million thicket of grant applications.

Start by tossing Exwire’s $4.5 million proposal for the Kingswood neighborhood near Lake Tahoe. Charter Communications filed a competing (and more plausible) application and can upgrade broadband service there for less money. Pull out Hunter Communications’ $290 million fiber project in Mendocino County, too. Even if it were cut in half, it would soak up all the money remaining in CASF. To get back into the game before RDOF money shows up, Hunter will have to dramatically downsize and redesign the project. Maybe it will, but for now consider it sidelined.

That leaves 52 grant applications, most of which are asking CASF to pay for 100% of project construction costs. If you dial the subsidy level down to 60%, the total ask drops to $143 million, which is a neat fit for the estimated money available.

The world doesn’t run that neatly, though. Requiring 40% matching funds would likely eliminate many, maybe most, applicants – bankrupt Frontier Communications comes to mind. So another way to filter out proposals is by cost per home served.

There are four projects needing subsidies of more than $50,000 per home: Darlene Road, Ventura County (Charter), Cuyama, Santa Barbara County (Frontier), Long Valley, Plumas County (Plumas Sierra Telecoms) and the biggest ask remaining, the $82 million proposal made by a startup ISP, WiConduit, in western Sonoma County. Lop off those four and the remaining 48 projects total $132 million, leaving enough in the kitty to maybe add one or two (but not three) of the high cost proposals back in.

The culling process that California Public Utilities Commission staff will ultimately use won’t be this simple. There are many ways to stray from the CASF trail. For example, some projects could be killed off by eligibility challenges from competitors. Others could be rejected because of incomplete or inchoate applications. And some applicants might be deemed unfit or unqualified – project budgets have to backstopped by letters of credit and company financial statements have to be blessed by outside accountants.

This natural attrition combined with a shot at extra money from RDOF means there’s hope for everyone. There’s even the tantalising prospect that hybrid CASF/RDOF proposals for new projects will be entertained. Stay tuned.

The Central Coast Broadband Consortium (CCBC) supported Charter’s San Benito County proposal and assisted Etheric Networks with its application. The Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium (CCABC) assisted DigitalPath. I assisted the CCBC and the CCABC, and also kibitzed on other projects. I also have opinions about what the CASF program should be (in case you haven’t noticed). I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

California broadband subsidy fund dwindles to less than a third needed for pending projects

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Sick piggy bank

With only $145 million in collectable tax revenue left to spend on broadband infrastructure subsidies, the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) will run dry this year. Last month, 54 broadband projects totalling $533 million in grant requests were proposed for CASF funding. Many, if not all, will be trimmed and some will almost certainly be rejected completely.

My blog post yesterday details the $130 million shortfall in tax revenue collected for CASF – actual and projected – over the final five years of the program, assuming that the legislature doesn’t extend it or the California Public Utilities Commission can’t raise the tax rate applied to in-state phone bills that funds it. Most of the shortfall – almost $120 million – will hit the account that pays for extending and upgrading broadband infrastructure, mostly in rural Californian communities.

That means that the $575 million authorised by the legislature for broadband infrastructure subsidies over the past 12 years drops to about $457 million in real money. Since 2008, the CPUC has awarded $282 million to Internet service providers, nearly all as grants. There was a loan program early on, but that didn’t prove to be popular and it was wound down, with the remaining money in the loan fund reallocated to grants.

The overhead for running CASF is also paid for by the phone tax revenue. As of a year ago – the most recent figures available – administrative costs totalled $17 million since the beginning of the infrastructure subsidy program, and have risen over the years. If you assume that the $2.2 million spent on administrative costs just for the infrastructure program in fiscal year 2018–19 stays steady and all projects are wrapped up by 2025, total overhead climbs to $30 million.

There’s some uncertainty in the numbers. CPUC overhead might continue to rise and project oversight could drag on, but in some years investment income has more than covered administrative costs. Maybe all the 77 projects already approved for CASF funding will be completed, but that’s not the way to bet. Money allocated to cancelled projects and a small but steady stream of loan repayments could add to the total available for new infrastructure grants. On the other hand, it might not be a bad idea to leave a reserve for projects that overrun budgets through no fault of their own – for example, because of tougher utility pole attachment standards imposed by the CPUC itself.

With that caveat in mind, add up all the expenses, subtract them from the actual dollars the CPUC will collect for the CASF infrastructure program, and you end up with $145 million left to spend on broadband projects. Tune in tomorrow for a look at how those $533 million worth of grant proposals might be carved down to fit.

CASF Infrastructure Account as of 23 June 2020
Authorised – total$575,000,000
Infrastructure shortfall (est.)($117,654,165)
Infrastructure Account net of shortfall$457,345,835
Infrastructure awards as of 31 Dec 2019$271,333,358
Infrastructure grants awarded in 2020$10,825,350
Cumulative admin overhead as of 30 Jun 2019$16,732,595
Estimated admin overhead FY 2019–25$13,142,082
Total Infrastructure Account spent/encumbered$312,033,385
Funds remaining for new CASF infrastructure grants$145,312,450

The Central Coast Broadband Consortium (CCBC) supported Charter’s San Benito County proposal and assisted Etheric Networks with its application. The Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium (CCABC) assisted DigitalPath. I assisted the CCBC and the CCABC, and also kibitzed on other projects. I also have opinions about what the CASF program should be (in case you haven’t noticed). I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

California’s broadband upgrade fund could lose $120 million, after senate committee caps subsidy bill

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Los alamos verizon plant 29oct2015 625

The California senate’s appropriations committee slammed a hard limit on the amount of money the California Public Utilities Commission can collect from taxpayers to fund broadband infrastructure subsidies. If the cap becomes law, it will lead to a cut of about $120 million from money previously approved for expanding and upgrading broadband service in California, primarily in rural communities.

The amendments to senate bill 1130 – approved behind closed doors on Thursday – would remove the CPUC’s authority to increase the tax on telephone bills that’s collected for the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). About 90% of CASF money is earmarked for broadband infrastructure construction grants. The rest goes towards broadband facilities for public housing, regional broadband consortia and broadband promotion.

The result, in very round numbers, could be a total CASF shortfall of $130 million. Which means the amount available for broadband infrastructure grants would be cut by something like $120 million, assuming the hit follows the historical 90% share given to infrastructure. That’s without adding investment income, which was $4.5 million in the last fiscal year, or subtracting out the CPUC’s administrative overhead costs, which were $3.5 million (10% of total CASF expenditures) in the same period. Both are trending up, although investment income is more volatile and, in any event, will drop as subsidy checks are written.

The blame or credit, depending on your point of view, doesn’t fall entirely on California lawmakers or the cable and telephone company lobbyists that pay them millions of dollars to protect monopoly-model businesses from competitors offering better service at a lower price. The CPUC set the current CASF tax bite at 0.56% of the monthly charges billed to telephone customers for in-state calls, beginning in 2018. That rate was reckoned at the time to be sufficient to collect the maximum $330 million CASF supplement – $66 million per year for five years – that was authorised by the legislature in 2017.

Things didn’t turn out that way. According the latest CASF annual report published by the CPUC, yearly revenue will be $41 million in 2020 and is expected to drop to $35 million in the next two years, just a bit over half of the authorised amount.

“This revenue shortfall is attributed to the continuing downward trend in intrastate telecommunications services that are subject to CPUC surcharges”, the annual report states.

Under current law, the CPUC can raise the 0.56% tax rate –“surcharge”, as the jargon goes – to keep CASF topped up, as it has done in the past. It has also lowered the rate in order to stay within caps set by the legislature. Whether commissioners have any appetite for raising it now is an open question. The 0.56% rate is the highest the CASF surcharge has ever been and, given the sharp drop in overall state revenues due to the covid–19 emergency, broadband subsidies are probably low on the Newsom administration’s tax hike priority list.

Details of the changes made to SB 1130 only became public over the weekend, as legislative staff worked through the dozens of bills that the senate appropriations committee blessed or killed on Thursday. The committee vote was five ayes and two noes, with the split breaking along party lines. Steven Bradford (D – Los Angeles), Jerry Hill (D- San Mateo), Connie M. Leyva (D – San Bernardino), Anthony Portantino (D – Los Angeles) and Bob Wieckowski (D – Los Angeles) were in favor; Patricia Bates (R – San Diego) and Brian Jones (R – San Diego) opposed it.

No other changes were made. As it now reads, SB 1130 would raise California’s minimum broadband service standard to 25 Mbps upload/25 Mbps download speeds. Sorta. A community that lacks that level of service would be eligible for a broadband upgrade grant from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), but the maximum speeds supported by subsidised infrastructure could be as slow as 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload.

SB 1130 is queued up for a floor vote by the full California senate, where it needs a simple majority to pass.

I’ve advocated for SB 1130, and for other useful changes to CASF. I am involved and proud of it. I am not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

14 ISPs try to block competitors’ broadband upgrades in rural California

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Road closed 625

Update, 12 June 2020: I found another challenge that I missed the first time around. Valley Internet filed against Web Perception’s Sonoma/Napa project. Comcast also challenged it, so the count is still 34 projects out of 54 facing challenges, with a new total of 17 ISPs filing. I updated the list below, but the live list for CASF project tracking is here.

Update, 10 June 2020: A late notice, from Succeed, brings the total number of projects challenged to 34 out of 54, and the number of ISPs filing challenges to 16. The updated list is below. Going forward, I’ll be updating and tracking the project proposals and challenges here.

Update, 9 June 2020: Another challenge – by Exwire to Charter’s Kingswood Estates project – surfaced overnight. It’s now 15 ISPs challenging a total of 32 projects, with many of those projects facing multiple challenges.

More than half of the projects proposed for infrastructure subsidies from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) were challenged yesterday. Competing Internet service providers submitted various claims regarding their broadband offerings in at least some of the project areas proposed for 31 of the 54 grant applications submitted in May.

Thanks to lobbying by big monopoly model incumbents, like AT&T and Comcast, and their non-profit fellow travellers, CASF money can’t pay for broadband upgrades if service in a particular place is already available at dismal 6 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload speeds. There are other restrictions as well. The rules give ISPs a five week window to prepare and submit their challenges, and 14 did by the deadline. Or at least submitted public notifications that they did so. A summary and links to the filings are below. I’m not betting that the list is complete, though. Notifications, as opposed to the actual confidential filings, sometimes trickle in late.

Some of the challenges appear to be legitimate, but others range from petulant complaints to unenforceable promises of service Real Soon Now. Nine of the 14 challengers are wireless Internet service providers, including Digital Path, which submitted an even dozen protests, almost twice as many as any other ISP. Some of the challenges are based on the incorrect notion that areas that received money from the old federal Connect America Fund broadband subsidy program will be ineligible for CASF grants – that carve out is based on grant approvals, not application deadlines, and expires at the end of the month, long before any projects can be approved.

Three of the most prolific protestors – Charter Communications, Frontier Communications and Digital Path (Comcast is on that list too) – are also the companies that submitted the most project applications on their own behalf. AT&T did not challenge any projects, or at least hasn’t distributed public notifications to that effect.

California Public Utilities Commission staff have about five months to sort it all out. New procedures put into place last year only allow competitors one chance to block CASF funding for a broadband infrastructure project. Yesterday was it.

Links to the project proposals are here.

Challenges to CASF infrastructure grant applications, 8 June 2020

Number of
Challenges
ProjectApplicant                          Challenged by
2Bella VistaCharter CommunicationsDigital Path, ShastaBeam
1Kingswood EstatesCharter CommunicationsExwire
1Butte YubaDigital PathSucceed
1Fresno CountyDigital PathComcast
2Glenn CountyDigital PathComcast, Succeed
2Lake CountyDigital PathMediacom, North Coast
1Mendocino CountyDigital PathNorth Coast
1Plumas LassenDigital PathFrontier
1Sacramento CountyDigital PathFrontier
1Sutter PlacerDigital PathSucceed
1Tehama CountyDigital PathCharter
2Central Coast BroadbandEtheric NetworksCharter, Razzolink
1Kingswood WestExwireCharter
1Crescent CityFrontier CommunicationsCharter
1CuyamaFrontier CommunicationsGeolinks
1GarbervilleFrontier Communications101Netlink
2HerlongFrontier CommunicationsDigital Path, Plumas Sierra
1Lake IsabellaFrontier CommunicationsGeolinks
2Mad RiverFrontier Communications101Netlink, Velocity
2Northeast Phase 2Frontier CommunicationsDigital Path, Geolinks
2PiercyFrontier Communications101Netlink, Willits Online
5Mendocino CountyHunter Communications101Netlink, Comcast, Frontier, North Coast, Willits Online
1Buckeye/BannerNevada County FiberDigital Path
1Long ValleyPlumas Sierra TelecomsDigital Path
1Mohawk ValleyPlumas Sierra TelecomsDigital Path
1PortolaPlumas Sierra TelecomsDigital Path
1Scott RoadPlumas Sierra TelecomsGeolinks
1Sierra ValleyPlumas Sierra TelecomsDigital Path
3Southern LassenPlumas Sierra TelecomsDigital Path, Frontier, Geolinks
1Gigafy ArbuckleRace TelecommunicationsFrontier
2Gigafy Nevada CityRace TelecommunicationsCalnet, Digital Path
4Gigafy WilliamsRace TelecommunicationsComcast, Digital Path, Frontier, Succeed
2Sonoma/NapaWeb PerceptionComcast, Valley Internet
3West Sonoma CountyWiConduitComcast, Digital Path, Frontier

The Central Coast Broadband Consortium (CCBC) supported Charter’s San Benito County proposal and assisted Etheric Networks with its application. The Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium (CCABC) assisted DigitalPath. I assisted the CCBC and the CCABC, and also kibitzed on other projects. I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

California broadband subsidy bill slows down to 25 Mbps copper speeds, with “a goal” of fiber for all

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

San benito pole route 13apr2019

Broadband projects subsidised by the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) wouldn’t have to be all fiber, according to the latest changes to senate bill 1130. The amendments, published late Tuesday night, lower the minimum broadband service speeds supported by new, subsidised infrastructure from 100 Mbps download/100 Mbps upload, which only full fiber to the premise facilities can deliver on a mass market basis, to 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload, which is within the range of middling copper-based DSL systems. The bill’s author, senator Lena Gonzalez (D – Los Angeles) agreed to amend it during a senate committee hearing last week.

The eligibility standard remains 25 Mbps down/25 Mbps up. An area that lacks service at that level would be eligible for CASF subsidies but, in theory, the money could pay for a system that only supports 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up. Even so, it’s a huge improvement on the pitifully slow 6 Mbps down/1 Mbps up minimum that the California legislature enacted three years ago when it turned CASF into a piggybank for monopoly model incumbents that pay big bucks to lawmakers for those privileges.

The bill still defines “future-proof infrastructure” as something that delivers broadband service at speeds of 100 Mbps down/100 Mbps up, but the text no longer mandates that the California Public Utilities Commission “shall…approve projects that provide” it. Instead, CASF subsidies only have to be awarded “with a goal of providing” that level of service. A “goal” in this context is something you hope to achieve some day, not something you need to do right away.

As SB 1130 now reads, the hard requirement for a CASF grant award is “the project deploys infrastructure capable of providing broadband access at speeds of a minimum of 25 mbps downstream and 3 mbps upstream”. That’s not fiber, but it’s better than the current construction standard of 10 Mbps down/1 Mbps up, a level of service that can be met with a minimal upgrade to a 1990s DSL system.

The contradiction of having a construction standard that’s lower than the eligibility standard will be a red flag as SB 1130 moves through the legislative process, so expect more changes. The next step is for the senate appropriations committee to approve it. The deadline for a decision, which will be made by legislative leaders behind closed doors, is two weeks from tomorrow.

Fiber for all broadband subsidy bill approved by California senate committee

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Fiber patch panel sab photo 625

Future proof, fiber-based broadband infrastructure got a big boost yesterday as the California senate’s energy, utilities and communications committee voted to approve senate bill 1130. The bill would raise California’s minimum broadband standard to symmetrical 25 Mbps download and upload speeds, and require projects subsidised with money from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to be capable of delivering symmetrical 100 Mbps down/100 Mbps up speeds.

As is common, changes were made on the fly and the exact language is still to be determined. The bill’s author, senator Lena Gonzalez (D – Los Angeles) accepted changes that give desperately unserved communities – in practice, mostly rural ones – priority for CASF money.

She also agreed to allow the California Public Utilities Commission discretion to fund projects that provide service as slow as 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up. How that’s worded will be important, since the requirement that CASF-subsidised infrastructure be “future-proof” and the definition of that term – “sufficient capacity to deliver to end users 100 mbps downstream, 100 mbps upstream” – is still in the bill.

I don’t have the final vote tally yet, but the last count I have put the vote at 10 ayes and two noes. The two noes (and one of the ayes) came from republicans.

Update: the final tally was 11 ayes, 2 noes. All the democrats present voted aye, as did one republican; the two noes were both from republicans.

The sole speaker against the bill was Carolyn McIntyre, who heads the lobbying front organisation that cable companies, like Comcast and Charter Communications, hide behind in Sacramento. She seemed worried about communities that still don’t have access to the pitifully slow 6 Mbps down/1 Mbps up minimum speeds that she and her clients (among others) foisted upon CASF three years ago. Her concern might even have been taken as sincere, were it not for the fact that one of the primary reasons those communities lack real broadband service is that they’ve been redlined by her clients.

The next step for the bill is for amendments to be finalised and posted. Then it goes to the senate appropriations committee, which is well known as a graveyard for popular bills that are inconvenient for cable and telephone companies with deep pockets full of cash for friendly lawmakers. One reason for hope, though: the Communications Workers of America, which is the primary telecoms union in California, supports the bill, and organised labor swings an even bigger bat at the California capitol.

Modern, future proof broadband gets a hearing in the California senate today, with public call in comments allowed

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

A faster and modern broadband speed standard for California is scheduled for its first hearing at the state capitol this afternoon. Senate bill 1130 by Lena Gonzalez (D – Los Angeles) is set for a vote by the California senate’s energy, utilities and communications committee.

The hearing will be conducted partly in person, in the cavernous senate chamber, and partly online. One beneficial side effect of the covid–19 emergency is that Californians can participate in the legislative process and make their views known remotely, without having to trek to Sacramento and fight their way through the squads of hired guns and corporate lobbyists that usually occupy the halls and hearing rooms of the capitol. The committee posted a phone number and access code for call-in comments on its webpage. Check the page before you call in – numbers and procedures could change.

The bill would raise the minimum eligibility standard for infrastructure subsidies from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) from 6 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload speeds – a level supported by 1990s technology – to 25 Mbps down/25 Mbps up. Broadband systems built with that money would have to deliver service at a minimum of 100 Mbps down/100 Mbps up, a speed level that only fiber can provide at consumer market prices and quantities, instead of the DSL-based 10 Mbps down/1 Mbps up that the CASF program allows now.

Other provisions in the bill would require subsidised middle mile infrastructure to be offered to all on level terms – “open access”, in other words. Last mile projects might also have to be similarly available, depending on circumstances.

SB 1130 is quarterbacked by the Electronic Freedom Foundation, and includes a long list of supporting organisations. Including the Central Coast Broadband Consortium, which submitted a letter supporting the bill (full disclosure: I drafted and submitted it). As did the North Bay North Coast Broadband Consortium.

The committee staff analysis is posted online. It has a long list of supporters and a shorter, more predictable list of opponents, which includes Frontier Communications, Charter Communications’ and Comcast’s lobbying front organisation, and Charter itself. It contains some odd arguments against open access middle mile infrastructure – I don’t know who told staff that ISPs or local governments can’t figure out how to sell wholesale services. That’s nonsense – they do it all the time. It also recommends lowering the standard for subsidised infrastructure to speeds of 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up, which suits monopoly model incumbents who want to minimise investment and maximise profits by minimising service levels. The analysis also argues against raising broadband speed standards because urban and suburban communities might end up being eligible for upgrade subsidies. It is not a particularly well informed analysis, unless you think monopoly model cable and telephone companies are the best source of information.

Rumblings from Sacramento indicate that the usual bunch of big cable and telco incumbents, and their non-profit fellow travellers, are working to kill the bill. Although they haven’t all gone on record yet, it’s the same cast of characters that gutted the CASF program in 2017 and turned it into an incumbent-centric piggy bank. We’ll have a better idea of what that opposition looks like after the hearing today.

California broadband infrastructure grant requests total $533 million as challenge period opens

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Two more broadband project proposals surfaced as the California Public Utilities Commission posted the official list of applications for grants from the California Advanced Services Fund. One is for what appears to be a neighborhood fiber to the premise (FTTP) system in Nevada County, the other is an FTTP project that covers the same Placer County area that Charter Communications proposed for a hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) build.

The total now stands at 54 projects asking for a total of $533 million, about twice what’s available in the CASF kitty now. The entire list is below, but for future reference, I’ve also posted here, and will update that page as necessary.

Exwire, a Truckee-based wireless Internet service provider, wants to enter the wireline world by building an FTTP system in the Kingswood area of Lake Tahoe. It would serve, its application says, “240 homes and 110 unbuilt lots”. The ask is $4.5 million, or $19,000 per existing home. The public summary doesn’t say how much of its own money it proposes to put into the project, if any at all.

Charter Communications is also asking for a CASF grant to extend its Tahoe cable system to the Kingswood area. It’s requesting $1.2 million to pay the entire tab for building out HFC plant to 120 homes, at a cost of $10,000 each. Exwire proposes to serve what looks like a larger area, but its application also notes that the CPUC classifies some of it as already having broadband service, at least at the achingly slow level of 6 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speeds that the California legislature thinks is perfectly adequate. Exwire disputes the CPUC’s finding.

Nevada County Broadband – an apparently newly formed company – is asking for $552,000 – 94% of the total – to build an FTTP system in two small residential pockets in the mountains outside of Nevada City. They propose serving 50 homes at a cost of $11,000 each.

By posting all 54 applications and maps, the CPUC also kicks off a three week window for incumbent providers to challenge the proposals by submitting information that shows they’re already providing service in project areas. At that miserable 6 Mbps down/1 Mbps up level.

CASF Project Proposals – 4 May 2020 Grant Application Window

ProjectApplicantGrant
Request
Housing
Units
$/HUCountyTech
Bella VistaCharter$715,35660$11,923ShastaHFC
BrooksideCharter$933,563243$3,842Los AngelesHFC
Country MeadowsCharter$2,165,515314$6,897San BernardinoHFC
Darlene RoadCharter$815,9677$116,567VenturaHFC
El Dorado EstatesCharter$1,477,032276$5,352VenturaHFC
Foothill TerraceCharter$489,513327$1,497Los AngelesHFC
Kingswood EstatesCharter$1,210,006120$10,083PlacerHFC
Los AlisosCharter$1,299,530451$2,881OrangeHFC
Monterey ManorCharter$796,19892$8,654San BernardinoHFC
Mountain ShadowsCharter$2,006,811132$15,203San BernardinoHFC
Oxnard PacificCharter$1,725,964171$10,093VenturaHFC
Plaza VillageCharter$658,436178$3,699OrangeHFC
River OaksCharter$829,46245$18,432San BenitoHFC
RiverbankCharter$299,11543$6,956StanislausHFC
Soboda SpringsCharter$983,817249$3,951RiversideHFC
Villa MontclairCharter$548,27964$8,567San BernardinoHFC
Butte YubaDigital Path$872,761582$1,500Butte, YubaWireless
Fresno CountyDigital Path$448,349299$1,499FresnoWireless
Glenn CountyDigital Path$361,500241$1,500GlennWireless
Lake CountyDigital Path$123,00082$1,500LakeWireless
Mendocino CountyDigital Path$138,00092$1,500MendocinoWireless
Plumas LassenDigital Path$865,000577$1,499Plumas, LassenWireless
Sacramento CountyDigital Path$230,000154$1,494SacramentoWireless
Sierra CountyDigital Path$241,000161$1,497SierraWireless
Siskiyou CountyDigital Path$138,00092$1,500SiskiyouWireless
Sutter PlacerDigital Path$418,433277$1,511SutterWireless
Tehama CountyDigital Path$935,976624$1,500TehamaWireless
Central CoastEtheric$3,180,3301,976$1,609Monterey, San BenitoWireless
Kingswood WestExwire$4,464,478240$18,602PlacerFTTP
Crescent CityFrontier$1,586,885134$11,842Del NorteFTTP
CuyamaFrontier$12,462,755131$95,136Kern, Santa BarbaraFTTP
GarbervilleFrontier$3,776,254106$35,625HumboldtFTTP
HerlongFrontier$7,668,801273$28,091LassenFTTP
Knights LandingFrontier$4,590,845104$44,143Colusa, Sutter, YoloFTTP
Lake IsabellaFrontier$9,595,168405$23,692KernFTTP
Mad RiverFrontier$8,169,979203$40,246Humboldt, TrinityFTTP
Northeast Phase 2Frontier$10,358,969502$20,635Plumas, TehamaFTTP
PiercyFrontier$7,797,273805$9,686MendocinoFTTP
Smith RiverFrontier$1,428,47955$25,972Del NorteFTTP
Hoopa ValleyHunter$8,233,3401,198$6,873HumboldtFTTP, wireless
Mendocino CountyHunter$290,327,9405,870$49,460MendocinoFTTP, wireless
Buckeye/BannerNevada County Fiber$589,64850$11,793NevadaFTTP
Long ValleyPlumas Sierra$4,118,25554$76,264PlumasFTTP
Mohawk ValleyPlumas Sierra$2,271,03954$42,056PlumasFTTP
PortolaPlumas Sierra$2,587,67785$30,443PlumasFTTP
Scott RoadPlumas Sierra$4,307,47588$48,949Lassen, SierraFTTP
Sierra ValleyPlumas Sierra$5,123,342283$18,104Plumas, SierraFTTP, wireless
Southern LassenPlumas Sierra$13,630,662868$15,704LassenFTTP
Gigafy ArbuckleRace$4,241,181480$8,836ColusaFTTP
Gigafy Backus 2Race$4,702,649266$17,679KernFTTP
Gigafy Nevada CityRace$6,154,776499$12,334NevadaFTTP
Gigafy WilliamsRace$6,758,805588$11,495ColusaFTTP
Sonoma/NapaWeb Perception$1,450,697504$2,878Napa. SonomaWireless
West Sonoma CountyWiConduit$81,886,0951,342$61,018SonomaFTTP
Total$533,190,37923,116$23,066

The Central Coast Broadband Consortium (CCBC) supported Charter’s San Benito County proposal and assisted Etheric Networks with its application. The Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium (CCABC) assisted DigitalPath. I assisted the CCBC and the CCABC, and also kibitzed on other projects. I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

Newsom’s budget revision hints at broadband policy change, adds money for mapping

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Although governor Gavin Newsom’s revised budget proposal has gloomy news for many publicly funded services and agencies in California, there’s a bright spot of sorts for broadband development. Newsom wants to spend an extra $2.8 million on broadband speed testing and mapping, via the California Public Utilities Commission’s CalSpeed program…

To identify which areas of the state lack sufficient access to broadband, the May Revision includes $2.8 million and 3 positions in additional resources…for the Commission to enhance its broadband mapping activities. This additional information will better inform the state’s broadband infrastructure grant program, improve safety by providing broadband speed data at emergency response locations such as fairgrounds, and enhance the state’s ability to compete for federal broadband funding.

The May Revision proposes statute intended to increase the ability of the state to compete for federal funding to improve access to broadband Internet in California.

Like his original January budget proposal, Newsom’s revision doesn’t include money for broadband infrastructure, beyond what the state already spends, mostly through the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF).

The vague mention – twice – of better competing for federal broadband money provides a clue to where money might come from for broadband upgrades in communities that don’t offer sufficiently lucrative revenue streams to meet the profit goals of AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Frontier and friends. What the “statute” that’ll improve California competitive position will do wasn’t spelled out, but one possibility is raising the pitiful 6 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload speed standard that those incumbents paid lawmakers million of dollars for argued eloquently for in the most recent CASF legislation. There’s a bill – senate bill 1130 – scheduled for a senate committee hearing next week that will do that.

Newsom also proposes to “loan” $420 million from special CPUC accounts to the general fund, including $60 million from CASF. Presumably that’s a temporary cash flow management tactic, and not a permanent reduction for CASF. But it needs watching. As the assembly 1665 debacle demonstrated, what the legislature giveth, the legislature can also taketh away.

Wide swing on costs for California broadband subsidy proposals, for fiber and copper

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Swing dance

Of the 52 applications for broadband infrastructure grants from the California Advanced Services Fund, 23 are for fiber to the premise (FTTP) builds of one kind or another, 16 are hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) projects, all submitted by Charter Communications, and 13 would be for fixed wireless facilities.

The least expensive proposals are, naturally enough, fixed wireless projects, most of which are in the $1,500 per home range. It’s probably no coincidence that the California Public Utility Commission’s benchmark price for wireless subsidies is also $1,500 per home.

Three of the proposed FTTP projects include fixed wireless add ons, to extend coverage to outlying homes. The numbers for each aren’t always broken out in the published project summaries, so my dollars per home unit number lumps them all together. You’d think that the combo FTTP/wireless projects would have lower costs per home than pure FTTP builds – wireless is a lot cheaper to deploy than fiber. But that isn’t the case – the average cost for pure FTTP projects is $28,000 per home, while the combo builds come in at an average of $41,000 per home.

The reason for that isn’t completely clear, but it’s worth noting that all three reach into areas that cover a lot of sparsely populated ground. There’s also wide variance. The Hoopa Valley project in Humboldt County proposed by Hunter Communications is the least expensive at $6,900 per home. The published summary implies that the majority of last mile connections will be wireless. At the other end of the spectrum, the Mendocino County proposal, also by Hunter Communications, comes in at $49,000 per home. According to the summary, about ten percent of the homes reached by the project will get service via a wireless connection.

The cost of the 20 pure FTTP projects varies widely, from a low of $8,800 per home for Race Communications’ Gigafy Arbuckle proposal in Colusa County, to $95,000 per home for Frontier Communications’ build in Cuyama, in eastern Santa Barbara County. The cost of that project includes 82 miles of much needed middle mile fiber that connects Santa Maria on the coast to Maricopa in Kern County.

The most expensive project on a per home basis, though, is an old school copper and fiber HFC cable build, proposed by Charter Communications in the in a Moorpark neighborhood in Ventura County. That would cost $117,000 per home. On the other hand, Charter is also applying for a $1,500 per home grant in Los Angeles County, which is the least expensive wireline project in the hopper, and only three bucks a home more than the cheapest wireless proposal.

CASF Project Proposals – 4 May 2020 Grant Application Window

ProjectApplicantGrant
Request
Housing
Units
$/HUCountyTech
Bella VistaCharter$715,35660$11,923ShastaHFC
BrooksideCharter$933,563243$3,842Los AngelesHFC
Country MeadowsCharter$2,165,515314$6,897San BernardinoHFC
Darlene RoadCharter$815,9677$116,567VenturaHFC
El Dorado EstatesCharter$1,477,032276$5,352VenturaHFC
Foothill TerraceCharter$489,513327$1,497Los AngelesHFC
Kingswood EstatesCharter$1,210,006120$10,083PlacerHFC
Los AlisosCharter$1,299,530451$2,881OrangeHFC
Monterey ManorCharter$796,19892$8,654San BernardinoHFC
Mountain ShadowsCharter$2,006,811132$15,203San BernardinoHFC
Oxnard PacificCharter$1,725,964171$10,093VenturaHFC
Plaza VillageCharter$658,436178$3,699OrangeHFC
River OaksCharter$829,46245$18,432San BenitoHFC
RiverbankCharter$299,11543$6,956StanislausHFC
Soboda SpringsCharter$983,817249$3,951RiversideHFC
Villa MontclairCharter$548,27964$8,567San BernardinoHFC
Butte YubaDigital Path$872,761582$1,500Butte, YubaWireless
Fresno CountyDigital Path$448,349299$1,499FresnoWireless
Glenn CountyDigital Path$361,500241$1,500GlennWireless
Lake CountyDigital Path$123,00082$1,500LakeWireless
Mendocino CountyDigital Path$138,00092$1,500MendocinoWireless
Plumas LassenDigital Path$865,000577$1,499Plumas, LassenWireless
Sacramento CountyDigital Path$230,000154$1,494SacramentoWireless
Sierra CountyDigital Path$241,000161$1,497SierraWireless
Siskiyou CountyDigital Path$138,00092$1,500SiskiyouWireless
Sutter PlacerDigital Path$418,433277$1,511SutterWireless
Tehama CountyDigital Path$935,976624$1,500TehamaWireless
Central CoastEtheric$3,180,3301,976$1,609Monterey, San BenitoWireless
Crescent CityFrontier$1,586,885134$11,842Del NorteFTTP
CuyamaFrontier$12,462,755131$95,136Kern, Santa BarbaraFTTP
GarbervilleFrontier$3,776,254106$35,625HumboldtFTTP
HerlongFrontier$7,668,801273$28,091LassenFTTP
Knights LandingFrontier$4,590,845104$44,143Colusa, Sutter, YoloFTTP
Lake IsabellaFrontier$9,595,168405$23,692KernFTTP
Mad RiverFrontier$8,169,979203$40,246Humboldt, TrinityFTTP
Northeast Phase 2Frontier$10,358,969502$20,635Plumas, TehamaFTTP
PiercyFrontier$7,797,273805$9,686MendocinoFTTP
Smith RiverFrontier$1,428,47955$25,972Del NorteFTTP
Hoopa ValleyHunter$8,233,3401,198$6,873HumboldtFTTP, wireless
Mendocino CountyHunter$290,327,9405,870$49,460MendocinoFTTP, wireless
Long ValleyPlumas Sierra$4,118,25554$76,264PlumasFTTP
Mohawk ValleyPlumas Sierra$2,271,03954$42,056PlumasFTTP
PortolaPlumas Sierra$2,587,67785$30,443PlumasFTTP
Scott RoadPlumas Sierra$4,307,47588$48,949Lassen, SierraFTTP
Sierra ValleyPlumas Sierra$5,123,342283$18,104Plumas, SierraFTTP, wireless
Southern LassenPlumas Sierra$13,630,662868$15,704LassenFTTP
Gigafy ArbuckleRace$4,241,181480$8,836ColusaFTTP
Gigafy Backus 2Race$4,702,649266$17,679KernFTTP
Gigafy Nevada CityRace$6,154,776499$12,334NevadaFTTP
Gigafy WilliamsRace$6,758,805588$11,495ColusaFTTP
Sonoma/NapaWeb Perception$1,450,697504$2,878Napa. SonomaWireless
West Sonoma CountyWiConduit$81,886,0951,342$61,018SonomaFTTP
Total$528,136,25322,826$23,137

The Central Coast Broadband Consortium (CCBC) supported Charter’s San Benito County proposal and assisted Etheric Networks with its application. The Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium (CCABC) assisted DigitalPath. I assisted the CCBC and the CCABC, and also kibitzed on other projects. I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.